SU officially began its offseason roster retooling with its early signees. The Orange inked 13 players in total in a smaller class, but still managed to sign some nearby products. Let’s break down the class and what it means for SU this upcoming year.
Note: All star ratings and measurements are courtesy of 247sports.com.
To start, Syracuse signed four players on the offensive side of the ball. Perhaps the most intriguing is this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year from New Jersey running back LeQuint Allen (3-star, 6’0” 180 lbs), who ranks as SU’s best overall recruit. Wide receiver Donovan Brown (3-star, 6’3” 180) brings a state-champion 400m sprinter pedigree to the wideout room. Offensive tackles Chad Schuster (3-star, 6’6” 280) and Joe Cruz (3-star, 6’6” 280) round out the offensive group, but both project as raw products who need to improve before they can contribute.
SU had more players sign on the defensive side of the ball. The seven newcomers include edge rusher Denis Jaquez Jr. (3-star, 6’4” 238 lbs), whose friendship with current SU cornerback Duce Chestnut helped make up his mind to come to the 315. ATH Dom Foster (3-star, 6’2” 175) is the highest-rated defensive player in this class if the team plays him at his projected spot at safety, and turned away other ACC offers from Boston College and Wake Forest. The Orange also added some pieces from the Sunshine State, nabbing linebacker Mekhi Mason (3-star, 6’1” 220), cornerback Jeremiah Wilson (3-star, 5’11” 173), and defensive lineman Belizaire Bassette (3-star, 6’1” 270) from Florida. Linebacker Kadin Bailey (3-star, 6’2” 200), cornerback Quan Peterson (3-star, 6’1” 175), and ATH Cornell Perry (3-star, 6’1” 175) round out the defensive group.
The lone special teamer Syracuse signed hails from Wagga Wagga, South Wales in Australia. Punter Max von Marburg (NR, 6’0” 192) comes up after showing off his skills in Melbourne’s “Prokick Australia” showcase.
What Dino Babers Had to Say
Head coach Dino Babers took to the podium yesterday to discuss his class and the team’s outlook. When he wasn’t being peppered with transfer portal questions, Babers had this to say about the size of the early signee class.
“We felt comfortable with that number, and it gives us enough breathing room on the back end to continue to grow this class.”
In addition, the Orange signed five players from nearby states: two from New Jersey, and one apiece from New York and Maryland. Babers said the importance of recruiting from bordering areas within a close radius is still a key.
“[It’s positive] when you bring in the Gatorade Player of the Year [LeQuint Allen] in the state of New Jersey…we want to get guys as close as we can to us.”
As happy as you may be for the kids who signed on to play for SU, no one will blame you if you struggle to get excited about this upcoming class. On a rankings basis, it’s one of Babers’ and the ACC’s worst, at least so far. As of today’s writing, the class ranks 67th nationally and 13th in the ACC. If it holds, the national ranking would be Babers’ worst since taking over the program in 2016.
This class lacks punch at the top that even last year’s had with headliner Duce Chestnut. Whether his hype was manufactured by a desperate fanbase or not, Chestnut burst onto the scene with a legitimately great season opener against Ohio and was a yearlong starter as a true freshman. Chestnut performed well after leaving Camden High School as a 3-star. That’s encouraging for this year’s class because Syracuse just finished this cycle as one of two ACC programs (along with Duke) to whiff altogether on 4-star prospects.
It doesn’t help that Syracuse’s supposedly marquee signing in running back Allen is entering with a stark disadvantage behind incumbent starter Sean Tucker, who just shattered the program’s 42 year old single-season rushing record. Last year, Chestnut was coming in to try and play in a secondary that lost three starters to the NFL. When asked about Allen yesterday, Babers’ confusing answer told everyone very little except that he reads the headlines about his lacking recruiting classes and remembers them a little too well.
The stem of all these problems is that although ‘Cuse can get recruits from New York and bordering states, the team simply doesn’t get the best talent anymore. Of this cycle’s top 15 players in New Jersey, Rutgers just signed four of them, including the No. 1 player in the state in OL Jacob Allen and defensive lineman Q’yaeir Price, who flipped from SU. If that doesn’t bother you, Rutgers also snagging the No. 1 player in New York (linebacker Moses Walker) should. If you’re looking for a culprit as to why this team’s recruiting classes have drifted from 56th to 60th to 67th in the nation the past three years, it’s because they miss on better players from the Northeast. Look no further for an example than Oakhurst, New Jersey native Kenny Pickett (a 2017 3-star), who ended up at Pitt and a 2021 Heisman candidate without a Syracuse offer or visit during his recruiting cycle.
The current recruiting malaise is concerning because Syracuse is staring at an imminent depth crunch after losing a bunch of pieces via transfer and graduation, including its entire starting defensive line. Yesterday, Babers even acknowledged the sheer lack of players may mean getting creative with personnel allocation when camps start. In year number seven as head coach, that’s quite a troubling problem for Babers to have, and it speaks to the difficulty this team has faced in recruiting for several years running.